Party 2

Faced with record numbers of kids in shelters, a Dyker Heights dessert business decides to throw the perfect bash

by Industry staff • photos by David Garced

According to a 2015 Coalition for the Homeless study, more than 40,000 New York City children stayed in a homeless shelter last year—a figure that represents one in 43 city children overall, and no fewer than one in 17 African-American kids. In just the last decade, the study also found, the number of families with children in shelters jumped 27% (in black families, the figure was 41%), and that on any given evening, there are nearly 24,000 children making shelters their home. The challenges facing such young people include lack of educational opportunities and access to health care, psychosocial problems, and slowed emotional development.

Maria Nitti of Isabella’s Creations looked upon this dire situation and decided to begin somewhere…anywhere. Her first thought was to harness a career spent making desserts, so “Operation Birthday Party” was born last year, a partnership of Nitti’s business and the Camba organization in Flatbush, along with a variety of local vendors who volunteer products and services at Brownsville’s Flagstone Family Center. The result is a group birthday party for every child in the shelter between the ages of one and 13 born in the month of each event.

Those who can’t assist the mission in a hands-on way can help by donating gifts, Nitti added, including clothing, toys, jackets, footwear, books, school supplies, or funds—and all will go directly to the homeless shelter where each bash takes place. The idea, ultimately, is to expand the program to all New York City shelters, but in order to achieve that, “significantly expand support will be needed.”

Operation Birthday Party